SERGEANT Dave Lawrence from the Collision Investigation Unit is set to retire next month, with the satisfaction of knowing that an investigation lasting seven years has finally seen the culprits jailed.
In June 2005 a 22-year-old Birmingham man, Mohammed Idrees, was killed on Bordesley Green Road after being struck by two cars. The drivers of the vehicles failed to stop, although the first driver soon gave himself up. The second driver, however, went to extraordinary lengths to evade capture.
Dave’s dogged determination eventually saw Wayne Smith convicted of the crime and his girlfriend, Julie Skelding, convicted of perverting the course of justice for providing him with an alibi in 2006.
The court gave the pair bail pending final reports, which is when they took the opportunity to flee to northern Cyprus, where they remained until last month, untouchable in the absence of an extradition treaty.
Dave always knew where the fugitives were and he never gave up in his efforts to see justice served for the family of Mohammed Idrees, even spending a day of a family holiday at the British High Commission in Nicosia trying to progress the case.
Earlier this year Crimestoppers, in partnership with SOCA and the Cypriot police, launched an operation which threw the media spotlight on Britain’s Most Wanted in northern Cyprus, focusing on a number of fugitives, including Smith and Skelding.
Unable to conceal their crimes any longer, the pair gave themselves up to authorities and on 22 October Sergeant Lawrence, along with four colleagues, accompanied 38-year-old Smith and 40-year-old Skelding back to the UK to answer to the court again.
“The post conviction extradition issues and dealing with northern Cyprus have been a real eye opener. I have had to deal with SOCA, the Foreign Office, had meetings in the House of Lords and been to the British High Commission in Nicosia.”
On Friday 9 November Smith began 7 years 10 months behind bars. He received 6 years for causing death by dangerous driving – the investigation proved that his car had caused the death of Mohammed Idrees, after he had dragged him almost 150 metres – 18 months for perverting the course of justice and 4 months for failing to surrender to bail, all to run consecutively. Skelding also received 18 months for perverting the course of justice and 4 months for failing to surrender to bail.
Dave welcomed the sentences for the family of the victim and hopes it will bring closure to their seven year ordeal, leaving them to grieve for their loss. He said: “This case has been complex in that the search for the second offender took months of investigative work. The day we arrested Smith and the way that all the parts of the puzzle came together will remain the best day of investigative policing that I have done in 30 years.
“The post conviction extradition issues and dealing with northern Cyprus have been a real eye opener. I have had to deal with SOCA, the Foreign Office, had meetings in the House of Lords and been to the British High Commission in Nicosia.
“I have been fortunate to have been supported by a team of the best traffic collision investigators possible – members of the old D1 road policing unit, in particular Simon Frost, Karl Davies and Paul Styler.
“This was the last of all outstanding investigations that I have before I retire on 18 December and I am pleased that I was able to see it reach its conclusion.”